History & Architecture

Essay: George Pasfield I, II, & III

From the book "In Lincoln's Shadow; Oak Ridge Cemetery Chronicles"
Block 10, Lot 338 & 244 (p. 105)
By Carolyn B Oxtoby, granddaughter of George Pasfield IV

According to a 1917 manuscript attributed to his grandson, George Pasfield, Sr. was born about 1790 in London, England. In 1793, the family immigrated to Philadelphia, where his father, also named George, died during a yellow fever epidemic. A later epidemic killed both Pasfield’s mother and sister, leaving him an orphan soon to be apprenticed to a cooper. The manuscript referred to him as “a competent and reliable young fellow” who, shortly after being apprenticed, was sent to Cuba with caries of staves to be set up for shipping rum and sugar. After a time, Pasfield was given charge of entire shipments between Cub and Philadelphia. He later attempted his own business in Cuba and then business shipping from Kentucky to New Orleans. Ultimately he settled in Paris, Kentucky, opened a general store, and, in 1821, married Mary Forden. After visiting Mary’s brother who had recently settled in Illinois” Sangamon County, George and Mary Pasfield sold their store in Paris and moved to Springfield, a town of approximately one thousand inhabitants, in the spring of 1821, before Abraham Lincoln arrived in New Salem in July of the same year.

The 1917 manuscript notes that George and Mary first lived in a building on the north side of the public square, on land they purchased. This building was only a few doors east of Diller’s Drug store, frequented by Lincoln and made famous by the political discussions held there. By this time, Springfield had already been selected as Sangamon’s county seat and the county court house stood on the square. It was in this first location that George and Mary’s first and only child, the future Dr. George Pasfield (George Pasfield III) was born on November 30, 1831. The Pasfields then moved in and around Springfield before settling on land currently located in the West Jackson Parkway neighborhood, just west of the State Capitol Visitors’ Center. According to the manuscript, the land was “well out in the country” and described by the History of Sangamon County’s author as a “cozy rural retreat.” The elder Pasfield built a house there where his family then lived until well after his death and the younger George built a house in 1896 which still stands to this day. The senior Pasfield added to and sold land throughout his life, ultimately passing a large portion of it on to his son.

Having gained experience in Kentucky as a shopkeeper, the senior George Pasfield took up business as merchant upon arriving in Springfield. For two different periods of time, the older Pasfield owned a general store in Springfield. References to the first can be found as early as 1834 in the Sangamo Journal, the predecessor the State Journal also first appeared in Springfield during 1831. the first store was located on the north side of the square and sold in January of 1837, nearly two months before the General Assembly selected Springfield as the new state capital and four months prior to Lincoln’s arrival in the town. On the west side of the square, he operated a second store with Washington Iles, brother of Elijah Iles, from as early as 1844 until he sold his share n 1846. After selling his share in the store, it appears the senior Pasfield stayed out of the general merchandise business and instead focused his attention upon his growing real estate holding and other local obligations.

Pasfield Family Grave Site
On October 9, 1869, the elder George Pasfield died, having lived to see the frontier village grow to a prosperous state capital of over seventeen thousand inhabitants. Pasfield, Sr. was remembered by the Illinois Ste Register with the words, “He was a man of strongly marked mind, and he assisted in the development of the region in which his lot was cast.” Less than a decade later, in 1877, Mary Forden Pasfield died. All three Georg Pasfields are burried in the family grave site at Oakridge Cemetery, Block 10, Lot 338 & 244.

In the winter of 1855-1856, the younger George Pasfield attended a course at St. Louis Medical College, and during the Civil War served as a contract surgeon at Camp Butler. Following the Civil War, Dr. George Pasfield ceased practicing medicine to devote full time to managing the multitude of downtown properties and several thousand acres of farmland. On September 19, 1866, he married Hathaway Pickrell. Together, the couple had three children: Emma, George Jr. (George Pasfield IV), and Arthur. Dr. Pasfield died in 1916 leaving his son, George IV to manage family affairs.

Many of his descendants remain in Springfield.

Submitted by Carolyn B. Oxtoby